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Artifacts of Identity Exploring Jewish Material Culture Through Time

Tuesday, April 2 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every week that begins at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, repeating until Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Professor Marc Michael Epstein

When we think about archaeology, we think, of course, about antiquity. But Jews in all times in places lived in communities surrounded by the material culture – the architecture, the furnishings, the clothing, and the artifacts– of their time. Join Professor Marc Michael Epstein for a deep dive into Jewish spaces places, clothing, and the material remains of daily and synagogue life— of Jewish “stuff“ throughout the ages. How should we go about digging for clues in this vast array of material? And how can we use what we discover about how Jewish “stuff” in times gone by to understand Jewish “stuff” and Jewish lives today?

April 2, 2024
SESSION 1: The Lost Ark
Is it in Ethiopia? Hidden under the Vatican? In your Uncle Morris’ attic? A look at the facts and fictions surrounding the fate of this legendary artifact.

April 9, 2024
SESSION 2: Fragments of the Temple
Do we know what the destroyed Jerusalem Temples looked like? How? What archaeological evidence is there that they ever existed, and what are the politics around the promotion or suppression of such evidence?

April 16, 2024
SESSION 3: Clothes Make the Person
What remains of historical Jewish costume in history? How were Jews distinguished from others and how did, (and does) Jewish clothing “mark” Jews?

May 7, 2024
SESSION 4: At Home in the Jewish World
What can we learn about Jewish life from the Jewish home, as depicted in art? Where can we find the “lost treasures” of historical Jewish civilizations now gone?

May 14, 2024
SESSION 5: Erased Synagogues
So many synagogues that were, in former times, the hubs of vibrant communities are no longer extant, for a myriad of reasons. Can we reconstruct these beautiful, vanished buildings?

Winner of the 2015 Jewish Book Award in Visual Arts for Skies of Parchment, Seas of Ink: Jewish Illuminated Manuscripts, Marc Michael Epstein is the product of a mixed marriage between the scions of Slonimer and Lubavitcher Hassidim and Romanian socialists, and grew up, rather confused, but happy, in Brooklyn, New York. He is currently Professor of Religion at Vassar College, where he has been teaching since 1992, and was the first Director of Jewish Studies. At Vassar, he teaches courses on medieval Christianity, religion, arts and politics, and Jewish texts and sources. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of his graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written numerous articles and three books on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews. His book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011. During the ‘80s, Epstein was Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division of Sotheby’s Judaica department. He continues to serve as consultant to various libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world, among them, the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition, and the Fowler Museum at UCLA. He is the Director of Beit Venezia, the home for International Jewish Studies in Venice, Italy.


Tuesday, April 2
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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